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Libraries of Illinois
Cities A-B

Occasionally, Illinois philanthropists assisted their communities before Andrew Carnegie hit the scene. In some cases (Dominy Library of Fairbury and Mary McCoy Library of McLeansboro), local citizens led the way.
Some of these libraries, however, postdate the grant program, or the cards picture buildings that replaced Carnegie buildings (Highland Park, Des Plaines).


Illinois' first public library. This building is still in use.
So far, I haven't found out anything else about the schoolhouse-like building featured in this Bregstone photo card.

(H.H.) Bregstone seems to have been renowned for baseball cards, but its library postcards aren't too shabby.

Albion, IL library
Algonquin, IL as seen looking E on Algonquin Road, with City Hall/Library on the right

(L) Early scene with photo taken facing east, looking down Algonquin Road.
(R) This is a quite elegant card, considering that it's one from the modern chrome era, and that the photographer must have had a death wish to be able to capture the angle s/he did.

Algonquin's City Hall\/Library as seen looking west.

Comprised the top floor of the City Hall, at the terminus of IL-62, for 55 years (1921-1976). The 1976 building eventually (2001) became a branch library.

Alton (Jennie D. Hayner Free Library)
Jennie D. Hayner Free Library, Alton, IL

Precursor founded in 1852.
Built in 1891, after the 1888 death of Ms. Hayner. Surprisingly, this building is still in use as after a recent renovation, serving as the Genealogy & Local History Library.


The early C.T. Photochrom features a quite imposing Romanesque structure. It's a good thing that there's no green space surrounding the Library. I'd really hate to mow that lawn!

Amboy (Pankhurst Memorial Library)
Pankhurst Memorial Library, Amboy, IL

(L) Lovely monochrome from C.R. Childs, another postcard manufacturer in Chicago.
(R) L.L. Cook photo card, with some issues stemming from the angle of the sun and its shadows.

Pankhurst Memorial Library, Amboy, IL

Resembles a Carnegie building, but is not. A wonderful Eastern Illinois University web page shows its 1928 cornerstone plus several delightful interior photographs.
It is very Prairie, however, and has undergone some alterations.

Anna (Stinson Memorial Library)
Stinson Memorial Library, Anna, IL

(L) Fort Wayne Paper & Printing postcard with the signature alumina border. Message from 1942.

(R) From the Dexter Press card:

Stinson Memorial Library was established by an endowment from Captain Robert Burns Stinson who died October 11, 1903. Native materials were used in a design by Walter Burley Griffin, a pupil of Frank Loyd Wright, to use the natural beauty at the site. Twenty five thousand dollars was the cost of the construction.

Stinson Memorial Library, Anna, IL

1913 building by Walter Burley Griffin. It is still in use, thankfully. 

Arlington Heights
1952 Arlington Heights, IL library

(L) The Joboul Publishing card shows the 1952 building.
(R) Wm. Means postcard shows the interior of the current building, although it's not the current interior.

ca. 1968 interior of Arlington Heights, IL public library

Established (barely) in 1896 with 150 books. It received official public library status in 1926; but the building on the left, still standing and used as a Teen Center, wasn't built until 1952.
The current building was built in 1968, and has been expanded twice and remodeled thoroughly (and attractively) at least once since the 1994 iteration. The last reinvention was in 2012.


And still in use.


Uncommon, unattributed (possibly C.U. Williams) library card, used in 1913 as a 98th birthday card.
Not readily available at Hallmark.

Tiny octagonal Atlanta, IL public library
Barry (Brown Library)

This was an extremely difficult card to identify. The 1906 postmark didn't show the state name, and the annotations 'Christian Church' and 'Library' didn't help much. With much squinting, I could barely make out 'Brown Library' above the roof line.
Do you know just how many Brown Libraries there are?


Amazingly, the library, built in 1904, is still in use, according to the Pike County city web site.

Barry, IL Real Photo Postcard includes its Library.
Empire styled Batavia, IL public library

This is the first library building, which served from 1902-1921.


The back of this Hugh C. Leighton card, printed in Germany, waxes lyrical about the splendors of Batavia and its environs.
However, its only mention of the library is on the card front.
Never mailed: divided back.

The building pictured includes the post-1960 Miriam Havighurst Children's Room addition: the second building served from 1921-1981.


From the postcard:

Library was built in 1878. Children's room addition added in April 1960. A historic landmark. In the foreground Batavia's Memorial to its Hero Dead.

--Custom Studio, Batavia, Illinois as printed by the Dexter Press.

Second Batavia, IL library in yellow stucco

Replaced in 1913 by a rather pedestrian Carnegie building, which appears to have been expanded. Fate unknown.


Downstate Illinois featured a few amazing Gothic libraries. This building seems to have also housed the city hall, which today is also in another facility.

Belleville, IL's City Hall & Public Library

(L) Postcard by Rotograph for Holmes, Tolle & Evans. Mailed in 1907.

(R) Beautiful interior, ID'd by the quatrefoil windows. This was a closed stack library, where you gave a call slip to the person at the desk seen in back. Another visible feature is an atlas table.

Interior of the old Belleville, IL library

There was a Berwyn Library before Berwyn existed. Cogitate upon that awhile. There have been at least 15 moves for the institution until finding its home in 1996.

The postcard dates before 1960, when it left City Hall (which function the building holds today). In the background are a market, a Royal Blue Store (a grocer chain), and a record store.

Berwyn, IL public library with a municipal garage
Bloomington (Withers Library)

Withers Library may be one of the best documented Ladies' Libraries in the state, courtesy of the Weekly Pantagraph, 20 May 1887, on the event of the laying of the cornerstone of the featured building.

It was preceded by a public library of 1,200 volumes, which fell into abject failure under the management of

          Dr. W.C. Hobbs, one of the kindest and best of men but wholly destitute of executive ability.

The remainder of the books were lost in the 1855 fire. 

By 1856, the Ladies' Library Association jumped into service, and by the end of 1857 provided a perfectly serviceable library to the city. It was chartered in 1867, and renamed as the Bloomington Library Association. Another, 1871 fire caused much damage.

Withers Library, Bloomington, IL

(L) Highly detailed S.H. Knox card.

(R) Ca. 1907 C. U. Williams 'Photoette' card, of much higher quality than most of this highly variable series.

Withers Library, Bloomington, IL
Withers Library, Bloomington, IL

(L) Card appears to date from the 'teens.

(R) Tom Jones card.

It's not unusual.

Withers Library, Bloomington, IL

Romanesque building torn down in 1978. It probably took far longer than expected: this was one impressive brick bookhouse.
Note the differences between the library facades as pictured on the cards.

The Withers family also funded a library in Nicholasville, KY. I am still trying to figure out the connection.

Nellie E. Parham Library
Nellie E. Parham Branch Library, Bloomington, IL

Served the Lake Bloomington area residents and the campers of the area, 1933-1974. Building fate unknown.



This is rather unclassifiable architecture. I'm inclined to call it something like 'Flemish Revival,' but I'd probably be way off the mark. Yet, it has its charms. Best yet, it's still in use, but the retaining wall in front of the steps is now painted cement.


L.L. Cook card, dated 2-14-46. It was used in a postcard exchange in 1965, and really sticks out in my collection with that 4 cent magenta Lincoln stamp.

Bradford, IL public library

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